Saturday, June 7, 2014

Mixing sun, sand, sailing, scuba helps travel agent serve divers

As a travel agent and a diver with about 10,000 dives under his belt, Bryan Cunningham knows the scuba travel business well. But he also knows it is an industry that is changing all the time.

Dive shops change. The condition of their dive boats can change. So do dive sites. That's why Bryan will leave his desk at Travelpath in Burlington, Ontario and relocate to the Caribbean. "I already know quite a few -- probably 40 different dive operators in the Caribbean," he says. "But things change all the time. You have to keep up to date."

In late June he will leave Hamilton, Ontario, in his Grampian 30 sailboat and begin his relocation trip to the Caribbean and its rich assortment of quality dive sites. He plans to settle in Antigua (in the Eastern Caribbean), where his ex wife and daughter live.

"I will island hop around the Caribbean and visit dive shops, which increases my knowledge (of good options for his scuba travel customers). Most the islands are no more than 60 miles apart."

He will continue to book the dive trips through Travelpath, but his "office" will be his sailboat.

His decision to buy the sailboat was based on both frugality and safety. The cost of diesel fuel to power a boat to Antigua is prohibitive. He can save a lot of money by sailing in the open seas, while using the engine to get in and out of ports. Rough seas can come up quickly in the Caribbean and the sailboat handles it better than power boats. The fact that the Grampian has a four-foot keel and a three-foot centre board that can protrude below the keel, also helps.
"It's a nice lifestyle. Your expenses are minimal.," Bryan says of life on a boat in the Caribbean.

But the bottom line is the opportunity to better serve his customers, not only from his knowledge of dive boats and dive sites but also of the quality of hotels where they will stay. He says most dive operators offer a commission to him as travel agent but he will pass that on to his customers as a discount, giving them a cheaper diving option if they book their hotels and flights through Travelpath.

"We will put them in the right hotels for diving," he says, adding that in booking through an Ontario company such as Travelpath, customers are protected by the Travel Industry Council of Ontario (TICO).

Geographically, the area he envisions serving runs from the Bahamas down the eastern Caribbean to the ABC Islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. The advantage of this trio of islands is that they are below the hurricane belt. The last major hurricane to directly hit Aruba was in 1877. He also offers trips to other destinations worldwide.

NB:::::Bryan will keep kirkscubagear updated on his travels when he can. Watch for further articles on his trip.

Kathy Dowsett

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